A number of Coweta County student-athletes have been sent home from sports practices over the summer because of COVID-19, according to school officials.
Concerns over the illness – for which the students had tested positive, showed symptoms of or been exposed to – had 17 high schoolers excluded from practices as of Monday.
“These numbers have gone up and down throughout the summer, and have affected various programs at all three high schools at some point,” said Dean Jackson, public information officer for the Coweta County School System.
Since June, the Georgia High School Association has been allowing athletic conditioning and training for fall sports, including band and cheerleading. GHSA guidelines set safety protocols and limited the number of students who are training voluntarily, as well as group sizes for practices.
The goal was to allow students to get ready for possible participation in fall sports, avoiding the outright cancellation of practices that would forfeit the possibility of competing once schools return to face-to-face instruction.
However, Coweta’s COVID-19 case and transmission rate escalation in July – which prompted a one-week delay in school reopening and a plan for all students to start instruction virtually instead of in person – are a cause for concern, despite the health and safety protocols in place.
To reduce the risk of transmission, Jackson said daily health checks are performed on every high school participant before each practice. And no summer practices are being held at Coweta County’s middle schools, which are not subject to GHSA rules.
According to the latest GHSA, posted on its website July 22, the organization expects to move ahead with its 2020 high school football season, with scrimmages and games pushed back two weeks. The statement also indicates that all other fall sports and activities will remain as scheduled on the original calendar.
However, Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, has raised concerns about the GHSA’s intentions in light of the state’s rising COVID-19 numbers. The GHSA is expected to discuss those issues at a meeting Wednesday.
“The school system will watch for additional guidance that comes from those discussions,” Jackson said.